“This represents an unprecedented experiment in hiper-individualizing a commercial print publication”
Nick Gillespie, Editor-in-Chief of Reason, in the June 2004 issue
Monthly libertarian magazine Reason pulled off the ultimate in customized publishing when its 40.000 subscribers received their June 2004 copy with a satellite photo of their own neighbourhood on the cover and their house circled in red. On the back cover readers found adverts customized to them and their neighbourhood. The stunt accompanied the magazine’s cover article about the power and importance of databases to customize information.
When the 40,000 subscribers to Reason, the monthly libertarian magazine, receive a copy of the June issue, they will see on the cover a satellite photo of a neighborhood – their own neighborhood. And their house will be graphically circled.
On one level, the project, sort of the ultimate in customized publishing, is unsurprising: of course a magazine knows where its subscribers live. But it is still a remarkable demonstration of the growing number of ways databases can be harnessed. Apart from the cover image, several advertisements are customized to reflect the recipient’s particulars.
Nick Gillespie, editor in chief of Reason, said the magazine, with an editorial mission of “Free Minds, Free Markets,” used the stunt to illustrate the cover article about the power and importance of databases.
“Our story is man bites dog,” Mr. Gillespie said. “Everybody, including our magazine, has been harping on the erosion of privacy and the fears of a database nation. It is a totally legit fear. But they make our lives unbelievably easier as well, in terms of commercial transactions, credit, you name it.”
Rodger Cosgrove, president of Entremedia, a direct marketing firm and a member of Reason’s board, assisted in coming up with a program that allows the subscriber list to be integrated with satellite photographs. He also worked with Xeikon, the manufacturer of the printer that made the endless customization possible.
“They were interested in showing what this technology could do,” he said, “and we were interested in demonstrating the power of databases to customize information.”
The cover article, written by Declan McCullagh, suggests that while databases can lead to breaches in privacy, it allows Dell to provide instant credit to computer buyers, grocery stores to stock goods that their customers want, and mortgage lenders to keep their rates down.
“It’s obvious that databases provide enormous benefits to modern life,” said Marc Rotenberg, president of the Electronic Privacy Information Center. “We could no more operate without computer databases than we could without electricity.”
“That doesn’t mean that there aren’t still some serious debates to have about government databases,” he added, “including the monitoring of the general American public under John Poindexter’s Total Information Awareness program and the passenger profiling that has gone on.”
In some respects, Reason’s cover stunt is less Big Brother than one more demonstration that micromarketing is here to stay. “My son gets sports catalogs where his name is imprinted on the jerseys that are on the cover,” Mr. Rotenberg said. “He thinks that’s very cool.”
In his editor’s note describing the magazine’s database package, Mr. Gillispie left open three spots – commuting time, educational attainment and percentage of children living with grandparents – so he could adapt his message to individual readers. Mr. Gillespie said that the parlor trick could have profound implications as database and printing capabilities grow.
“What if you received a magazine that only had stories and ads that you were interested in and pertained to you?” he asked. “That would be a magazine that everyone would want to read.”
Agency: Entremedia, USA
The world is filled with beautiful moments worth capturing. You just have to see them. Also, buy a Canon Rebel T4i camera and carry it with you all the time. That way, whenever inspiration strikes, you’ll be ready to snap a photo you can save forever. Also, Canon will sell more Canon Rebels.
“Inspired” is a new ad for the brand from Grey in New York features a montage of adventurous photographers braving environmental hazards to get that special shot. The spot does a particularly nice job of portraying the product users as the heroes of the story: their antics are by varying degrees entertaining (trying to outrun a charging giraffe, staring down an irate fishmonger) and stupid-dangerous (climbing to the edge of an icy roof to get a better angle on the kid making snow angels in an empty pool). The resulting pictures are all marvelous, and so is the filming of the spot itself, showing all the right attention to detail—e.g., the birthday girl’s sideway glance when her mom nonchalantly sweeps a bowl off the table to get it out of the frame.
The director, Nicolai Fuglsig, also shot Fallon’s Balls spot. He appears to have an affinity for steep roads and the effects of gravity on unusual objects—in that case innumerable bouncy balls, and in this case a flaming tire. The soundtrack is Rachel Fannan of the California rock group Only You singing a charmingly understated version of the easily mawkish classic “Beautiful Dreamer,” and it’s pretty much perfect for the spot. Canon or someone should probably post or sell the whole song somewhere obvious soon. People are going to want to hear it.
Figuring out how exactly the lofty tagline, “Long live imagination,” ties into an ad about making concrete records of inspiring moments may take a few steps of abstraction. But in the end, it does make sense, and the conceit, with all its overtones of creativity and immortality, is pretty much dead-on for an ad aimed at people who want to be artists.
Advertising Agency: Grey, New York
Chief Creative Officer: Tor Myhren
Executive Creative Directors: Ari Halper, Steve Krauss
Creative Directors: Stu Mair, Dave Cuccinello
Production Company: MJZ, Los Angeles
Director: Nicolai Fuglsig